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SUPPLICA´TIO, A religious rite, or series of rites, decreed with two different objects: viz., 1, as a solemn act of thanksgiving to the gods on account of a victory or successful campaign; or 2, as an act of humiliation, on [p. 2.730]account of some calamity, actual or impending, such as pestilence or defeat, or oftener on account of the occurrence of prodigies and portents, which were supposed to threaten evil to the state.

When a supplicatio was decreed in the sense of a thanksgiving, the procedure was as follows:--The senate was consulted by a magistrate, and authorised the consuls to issue an edict fixing the number of days over which it should extend, and other necessary particulars, such as whether it should be confined to the city only, or should take place throughout the extent of the Tribus Rusticae also, or even in the allied Italian communities; and to what god or gods special adoration should be paid (cf. Liv. 27.51, 34.42, 40.28, 45.3; Cic. Phil. 14.14, 37, where the senatorial decree is given in full; in this last case in the absence of both consuls, as in many others, the edict is to issue from the Praetor urbanus). This method of procedure was continued even under the Empire (Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 3.2, 1061, note 6).

A supplicatio, in the sense of prayer and expiation, was also set on foot by senatorial decree; but in this case the magisterial edict (indictio) was based on the advice of a college of priests (cf. Mommsen, l.c.). In simple matters of expiation the senate would refer the question to the pontifices, who decreed the necessary simple piacula, according to old Roman custom (Liv. 24.44, 9; 30.38, 9), in the form of a novendiale sacrum or obsecratio (Marquardt, Staatsv. iii.3 260); but in difficult matters, as for example where the meaning of a portent is doubtful, they refer the question to the keepers of the Sibylline books [DECEMVIRI SACRIS FACIUNDIS], who, after consulting the books, advise a supplicatio, sometimes with the addition of a fast (jejunium) or of a novendiale sacrum (Liv. 36.37). In one instance at least, Livy represents a supplicatio, in this case of one day only, as resulting from a decree of the PONTIFICES (Liv. 27.37; cf. 32.1, where he makes the haruspices take the place of the keepers of the Sibylline books). It does not therefore seem certain that in every instance an expiatory supplicatio was the result of an examination of the sacred books; but in the majority of cases it was so, and the ritual of the ceremony must be considered as closely bound up with the Greek forms of religious usage, introduced into Rome through the instrumentality of the books and their interpreters [see LIBRI SIBYLLINI].

The development of the rites of supplicatio in the course of Roman history cannot be traced with certainty. The elaborate ritual of the Lectisternia, which formed the chief part of an expiatory supplicatio, as well as (in later times at least) of those which were decreed as thanksgivings (Cic. Phil. 14.14, 37), belonged to an age in which Greek deities and Greek worship had made their way into the Roman state [see LECTISTERNIA]. All the prominent features of the Lectisternia were Greek: the reclining position of the images of the gods; the prostration of the worshippers, and the garlands they wore. Was there a purely Italian germ on which this foreign ritual had engrafted itself? Such a germ may perhaps be found in the Italian piaculum or expiatory sacrifice, which was capable of being extended in length and importance in the case of either periodical lustration or of alarming prodigia, and was often accompanied by processions and other rites, as we see it in the great ritual inscription of Iguvium (Tab. vi. Bücheler, Umbrica, pp. 42 foil.). Some even of the features of the lectisternia may possibly be traced to an Italian origin (Preller, Röm. Myth. i.3 150): Varro, e.g., tells us (ap. Serv. ad Aen. 10.76) that at the birth of a child a couch was spread in the atrium of the house for Picumnus and Pilumnus--deities whose antiquity is some guarantee for that of the practice; and in the domestic worship of the Lares it was customary to set apart for them a part of each meal, and to use wine, incense, and garlands (Marquardt, 3.128). Again, the obsecratio, which often formed a part of the general ritual of the supplicatio (as in Liv. 4.21, 5; 27.11), and which consisted of a formal prayer led by the priests and repeated by the people, in contradistinction to the prayers and prostrations of the Graecus ritus, where everyone prayed on his own behalf, betrays a genuine Italian character. But as the Greek spirit entered more and more into religious usage, not only the ordinary features of the lectisternia, but elaborate processions of singing virgins, and other such rites as are described in Liv. 27.37, were added to the ordinary ceremony of the supplicatio.

A susplicatio in early times lasted from one to five days (Liv. 3.63, 5; 5.23; 10.23; 21.8). Later on, in proportion as it lost the reality of its religious meaning, its length increased to ten, fifteen, twenty, and even fifty days; but in these cases it seems always to have been a ceremony of thanksgiving, and not of expiation. A supplication of ten days was first decreed in honour of Pompeius at the conclusion of the Mithridatic war (Cic. de Prov. Cons. 11, 27), and one of fifteen days after Caesar's victory over the Belgae, an honour which Caesar himself says had never been granted to anyone before (Caes. Gal. 2.35). Later a supplicatio of twenty days was decreed after his conquest of Vercingetorix (B. G. 7.90). From this time the senate seems to have frequently increased the length out of mere compliment to the general (D. C. 43.14 and 42; Cic. Phil. 14.14, 37). In these cases it was of course impossible that all the days should be public holidays [FERIAE]; nor does it seem likely that at any period a supplicatio necessarily implied a holiday (Liv. 3.5; 40.28). A supplicatio was in the last age of the Republic usually regarded as a prelude to a triumph, but it was not always followed by one, as Cato reminds Cicero in a letter, after a supplicatio had been decreed in his honour during his proconsulship in Cilicia (Cic. Fam. 15.5). The same honour was conferred upon Cicero on account of his suppression of the conspiracy of Catiline; this being the first occasion on which it had been awarded to any one acting in a civil capacity [TOGATUS], as he frequently takes occasion to mention (Cat. 3.6, 10; in Pis. 3, 6; Phil. 2.6, 13).


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